The Queensland Premier has defended her state’s tough border closures, while admitting that Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks arrived in the Gold Coast on Tuesday and is exempt from hotel quarantine.
Enduring a grilling from opposition MPs in parliament on Wednesday about the consistency and compassion of border rules, Annastacia Palaszczuk defended the special exemption for the American superstar.
Liberal National Party MP Laura Gerber asked if Hanks was in mandatory quarantine after flying into the Gold Coast.
Ms Palaszczuk confirmed Hanks was exempt from quarantine under the film industry’s COVID-safe plan.
“Under that plan they have to stay in the place for two weeks just like everybody else and they will have random checks, as my understanding, by the police,” she told parliament.
Hanks has returned to Queensland for the first time since he and his wife Rita Wilson both tested positive for COVID-19 in March. They both did 14 days of self-isolation after testing positive to the virus in Australia.
The infection struck just as the 63-year-old was about to begin filming on Baz Lurhmann’s Elvis Presley biopic. Production was quickly halted.
“We were tested on a Tuesday; we were in isolation on a Wednesday and we were supposed to start shooting the following Monday so we barely missed our start date but I guess it was probably better not to start and then have to shut down,” Hanks told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time.
The couple were briefly hospitalised on the Gold Coast, but recovered and returned to the US full of gratitude for the care they received.
Hanks has since been a vocal advocate for COVID-19 control, encouraging people to wear masks to help slow the spread and donating his plasma to help with research.
Ms Palaszczuk said the big budget film would bring more than $100 million and 900 jobs into the Gold Coast economy.
Hanks is not the first star to be exempt from the strict border rules.
In July, the decision by Queensland health to give Masked Singer Australia judge Dannii Minogue an exemption caused backlash on social media.
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young denied the singer and television personality was given special treatment, saying Minogue was one of 38 people granted an exemption.
“They need to then quarantine in another place that I’m satisfied adheres to the same requirements,” Dr Young said.
“There’s no special treatment for anyone.”
Defence force personnel, maritime workers, consular officials, flight crews, entertainers and sportspeople are among those who are exempt from hotel quarantine.
Defending Queensland’s hard border policy, recommended by Dr Young, Ms Palaszczuk said if it wasn’t in place the state could be in a situation like Victoria.